The picturesque desert valley of Nelang stands at a height of 11,400 feet and is part of the Gangotri National Park in the Uttarkashi district of North India. The crystal-clear waters of Jadh Ganga, an important tributary of the Bhagirathi River, flows through here. A long time ago, before the Chinese occupation of Tibet, Nelang was an essential trade route between Tibet and India. In fact, the geographical topography of this valley starkly resembles that of Tibet. A very interesting ancient wooden bridge called the Gartang Galion is found here, which formed part of the old trade route. This is a relatively unexplored part of India as it was closed for civilians after the Sino Indian Border Conflict of 1962 and the villagers were dispersed to the nearby Bagori and Dunda villages. The ban was only lifted very recently in the year 2015.
The original inhabitants of the valley were the Bhotiya tribe also known as the Jaad tribe. They sustained themselves barter-trading items such as carpets, blankets, and woolens woven by their women, tobacco, and other cash crops like tea, coffee or barley. The Bada Haat or big market was where much of the trade took place. The villages of Bagori and Dunda were important stopovers on their trade route and hence much familiar to the local tribes. During the season of business, the villagers would move up and down for six months along these roads. Not much can be discerned about the history and culture of the Nelang people as border conflicts and political turmoil left the valley sequestered. Two fairs called Ringali Devi and Someshwar Devta temple fair, that take place at Jadung village in June every year are only tepidly reminiscent of the trading past of the local tribes. Being cut off and isolated, wildlife has thrived in Nelang. Himalayan blue sheep, snow leopards, and musk deer are found in abundance. The valley offers a stunning view of the Tibetan Plateau.
Six vehicles ferry tourists from Bhairon Ghati on Gangotri road to Nelang every day between May and November, but tourists are allowed no deeper than 25kms into this valley and overnight camping is prohibited. SUVs and Enfields are the only kind of vehicles allowed and there is a long process of permit consolidation before making the visit. Foreigners are banned from entering the valley at all. The permit process can take anywhere between a day or a week, depending upon the availability of the government officials involved. Lodging is possible at Gangotri or Harsil at a distance of 30 and 40kms from Nelang respectively. Regulations are expected to be moderated in the future and it is hoped tourists might then get a chance to really explore Nelang and everything it has to offer. But for now, the area remains heavily controlled by the army. There is speculation of a new lake has formed deeper into Nelang, which remains a virgin lake cordoned off owing to its proximity to China. There is a temple of the Jaad community’s’ presiding God, Lal Devta, tucked further up Nelang. It houses some huge stone manuscripts undeciphered till date.